Also known as a lancelet, amphioxus is a small, fishlike invertebrate about 2-3 inches long. Common in shallow marine waters, it burrows in the sand and filters nutrients from the water. What makes this humble creature so intriguing to scientists is its unique status as the closest living invertebrate relative of backboned animals.
The Marine Science Institute's monthly column, Science and the SeaTM, is an informative and entertaining article that explains many interesting features of the marine environment and the creatures that live there. Science and the SeaTM articles appear monthly in one of Texas' most widely read fishing magazines, Texas Saltwater Fishing, the Port Aransas South Jetty newspaper, the newsletter of the Texas Chapter of the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association , and the Heartland Of America online newspaper. Our article archive is available also on our website.
Mouth gaping wide, a massive grouper cruises a coral reef, and approaches a tiny shrimp. As the predator gets closer, the shrimp doesn’t flee… it swims right in!
Meet a diminutive shark that snacks on “cookies” made not of flour and sugar, but of tuna or whale.
At 16-22 inches in length, the cookie-cutter shark is one of the smaller denizens of the deep. From above, this little cigar-shaped shark may look harmless, but a peek at the underside of its coneshaped snout reveals a row of fearsome, saw-like lower teeth.
Red knots are a species of sandpiper found in coastal areas throughout the world. Watch them pop their beaks in and out of the wet sand in search of clams, snails and crustaceans to feed on, and they might appear to be poking around randomly. But scientists believe the red knot uses a more precise method.
Here’s a warning to the millions of plankton in Texas Gulf Coast waters: You’re being watched!
A specialized instrument called the Imaging FlowCytobot is on duty, analyzing microscopic organisms in the sea at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute.
Pass by a sea cucumber in a tide pool, and you may hardly notice this lowly, pickle-shaped creature. But try to make a meal out of one, and you’ll probably never forget it.
A whale carcass brings a whopping amount of organic matter to a place where food is scarce. Within days, hagfishes, sleeper sharks and scavenging crustaceans arrive to feast on the remaining flesh. This first stage is called the mobile scavenger phase. Depending on the size of the carcass, the bones can be picked clean in a matter of months.
Bull sharks are unique among sharks in their ability to live in freshwater habitats for long periods of time. However, dealing with changes in salinity is very taxing on their bodies, prompting scientists to wonder why these sharks venture into fresh water in the first place.